Sept. 19, 2022
By Martin Granstrom
Vice President, Head of Product Design & Research
Sam Walton said it best over 35 years ago, Sam’s Club is an experiment. Today, Sam’s Club is a leader in digital retail transformation. We are called the ‘innovation engine’ for our Walmart enterprise. Through innovation, iteration, and failing fast Sam’s has staked its claim as a disruptive retailer – with a member-obsessed vision. We know this success is due to our associates, members and ultimately the business developing and adopting new ways of working to meet the transformation challenge.
So, it feels like a natural next step in our journey to announce that we’re building a Design Studio on our Bentonville, Arkansas campus. This is the first dedicated space at Sam’s Club for innovating, creating, and collaborating. A building where all associates are welcomed and encouraged to pitch, develop, and curate new ideas for the better of our business.
Let’s explain how we got here…
First, is a retail design studio necessary?
If someone would have asked me this question five years ago, I would have shrugged and said, “there is no use for it.” But in today’s retail industry, the value of thinking holistically about “endless aisle”, “omni commerce”, or “phygital” has exponentially increased.
One big factor was the COVID-19 pandemic. At Sam’s we were ready to help our members quickly with new innovations like Scan & Ship, Curbside Pickup, and Scan and Go™. We also learned in order to expand and meet this new omni demand from our members we had to evolve the way we deliver product, design, and service.
Our major unlocks were enabled by a few strategic decisions:
- Our engineering, product management and design teams are responsible for the entire chain of experiences that involve delivering great service and merchandise to our members.
- We think differently in how we collaborate. We work in what we call an “experience team model.” This means cross functional teams work together to first understand business and member value then align on what problem they should solve for our members and our business.
- Lastly, as an organization we value design thinking. To support end-to-end problem solving and enabling cross functional teams to collaborate, we needed a structured process to anchor on. Insert our design thinking process, being member-obsessed, and empathizing with the member.
So, what really is a design studio?
Our Design Studio will serve as an idea factory, where anyone in the company can test, exchange, and collaborate on projects that push our business forward.
Creating a dedicated space gives us several advantages:
- Neutral space allows easier collaboration with external partners
- Workshop-based space puts innovators in the mindset of creation, not work
- Physical product and hardware testing without current space constraints
- Strong communication of the commitment to being a design-led organization with this investment and footprint
Why build a design studio?
- To stitch design thinking into the fabric of our enterprise…
- To democratize innovation…
- To elegantly integrate physical and digital design…
We are still the experiment Sam Walton started in 1983, and it will always be our goal at Sam’s Club to create the most seamless and convenient user experiences. For us, our Design Studio announcement officially marks innovation being woven into our company’s fabric for the future.
Get a sneak peek at what the Design Studio will look like…